Tensions rarely run higher on-screen than they do in the prison-break movie, in which characters doing time behind bars risk it all for a shot at freedom. Right now on the Criterion Channel, for our series Jailbreak!, we’ve rounded up eight of the most masterful takes on this nerve-racking suspense-film subgenre. Among these timeless cellblock-busters are the meticulously plotted POW escapes of Jean Renoir’s Grand Illusion, Billy Wilder’s Stalag 17, and Robert Bresson’s A Man Escaped; the hard-hitting noir of Anthony Mann’s Raw Deal and Jules Dassin’s Brute Force; and the dystopian vision of John Carpenter’s Escape from New York, in which the urban jungle of Manhattan serves as a futuristic penal colony. For a taste of the taut, high-stakes drama on offer in our series—which, with Jacques Becker’s Le trou and Jim Jarmusch’s Down by Law, also delves into the combustible group dynamics that can attend the pen-springing process—look no further than the teaser above.
John Schlesinger’s Cinema of Failures and Outcasts
A gay man in an age when homosexuality was against the law in his native Britain, the Oscar-winning director eschewed political statements in favor of compassionate portrayals of the human condition.
The Lurid Intensity of Shock Corridor’s Long Takes
In the latest episode of Observations on Film Art, now playing on the Criterion Channel, Professor Jeff Smith breaks down the audacious style of one of Samuel Fuller’s most provocative works.